New Hope-Solebury Three-Peats as Battle of Bridges Champion
To Run in the September 7th Bucks County Herald
Senior running back Jesse Capriotti needed just 11 carries to run for 217 yards and four scores as the host New Hope-Solebury Lions (2-0) pulled away from their interstate rival South Hunterdon Eagles (0-1) 41-7 on Friday night.
“Jesse is a tough kid. He has great vision. I told him going into this year that he could be our single season leading rusher,” New Hope coach Jim DiTulio complimented.
Classmate and backfield-mate Morgan Shadle added a pair of touchdowns.
The game, which doubled as the Lions’ home opener, gave New Hope-Solebury a 4-3 edge in the Battle of the Bridges. The first six Battles were played on Thanksgiving.
The Lions opened with an impressive 11 play, 71 yard drive, capped when freshman quarterback Phil Weinseimer, subbing for an injured Nick Garritano, hit Shadle on an 18-yard touchdown. Weinseimer connected with three receivers on the drive.
“Phil is going to be a dynamic player for us,” DiTulio predicted. “He hasn’t even started ninth grade yet and I thought he came in, started off well and then got a little antsy. He did a nice job managing our team and I’m proud of him.”
Capriotti forced and recovered a fumble on the kickoff, then scored on an 18-yard rush one play later to put the Lions up 14-0. On New Hope’s next series, Capriotti scored on a 17-yard sweep and the Lions took a 21-0 lead into halftime.
“Everyone did their part,” said Capriotti, who is a standout rugby player. “The O line blocked. The fullback blocked. The wide receivers took out the corners. We go inside and outside. We go everywhere with the run game.”
The Lions fell to Conwell-Egan Catholic in their opener; CEC’s Patrick Garwo is one of the most sought after running backs in the state. Friday was time for Capriotti, who scored on a 64-yard run against CEC, to turn in his own superlative performance.
“We looked at the film and I thought we played well in the first half against Egan,” DiTulio noted. “Garwo is a great back but I love playing against better competition. It’s only going to make us better as the season goes on.”
“After a loss like that,” said Capriotti, “we wanted to smack someone around and get a win.”
The Eagles moved 50 yards on 15 plays in their first possession, and 38 yards on eight plays on their second. Lion junior linebacker Dan Khouri ended the first drive with a fourth down pass breakup, and the second with an interception- one of his two on the night.
“When they rolled out, we knew when the quarterback was going to throw the ball. When he dropped back to pass, I covered my man and hoped to get lucky,” Khouri said. “I could tell when he was going so I dropped back in my zone and got two picks.” The Lions limited the Eagles to 28 yards passing on 14 attempts.
Capriotti sandwiched Shadle’s four-yard touchdown plunge with a 34- yard scoring run three minutes into the second half, and a 68 yard scoring scamper with 11:08 remaining in the game. That gallop gave the Lions a 41-0 lead. Shadle had 55 yards on nine touches.
“Morgan is a player that I can put anywhere on the field: tight end, X, Z, fullback and tailback,” DiTulio said.
South Hunterdon, who ran 60 plays to New Hope-Solebury’s 36, amassed 253 yards on the ground. Junior tailback Mekhi Beckett rushed for 180 yards on 26 carries; quarterback Justin Torres ran for 39 on 12 lugs. Beckett’s 34-yard run set up Brian Torres’ 11-yard touchdown rush to put the Eagles on the scoreboard.
“We have designed plays for how I like to run,” said Beckett. “I like to run inside to get outside and get outside between the 7 hole and 8 hole. Coach wants us to get five yards every play.”
“(Beckett) is one of our veteran guys on offense,” said South Hunterdon coach Toby Jefferis, “so for us to be successful we need to rely on him to do what he does. He makes people miss.”
“We did compete but we could have done better. We made mental mistakes and that killed us,” Beckett concluded.
“We moved the ball. Our offense is predicated on that,” Jefferis explained. “We’ll move the ball hopefully three or four yards a pop and then break one for ten. But we can’t make any mistakes. What comes later is the passing game. We moved the ball but we stalled out.”
New Hope-Solebury won last year’s Battle handily. But 3-7 South Hunterdon almost upset 12-win New Hope in 2015 in Pennsylvania. Jefferis was realistic, but positive about his young program’s 2017 debut.
South Hunterdon travels to Roselle Park (1-0) on Friday. The Eagles open with three road games before flying home for three straight.
New Hope-Solebury visits Academy of the New Church (0-1) on Saturday, a game the Lions won 9-0 in 2015 during their last meeting. It’s a safe bet the 2017 Lions will blow past that point total.
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